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Kiss Me in Wescott Springs by Holly Cortelyou

I’m pleased to welcome Holly to my blog today!  Enter her giveaway here.

Kiss Me In Wescott Springs
by Holly Cortelyou

Escape with two enticing tales of love. Sometimes opposites do attract and just need a second chance love… courtesy of a raspberry puff pastry and an unexpected discovery. And then again, maybe all it takes is a little wine, truffles and a remodel to turn enemies into lovers!
Welcome back to Wescott Springs where it’s always a sweet and sexy romp to love!

One tempting kiss will rock his world…
What’s better than wine, chocolate and a little renovation magic? A sweet and sexy matchup between a handsome, hammer-swinging contractor, Sean McMallory, and a flirty and stubborn champagne bar owner, Melinda York, who’s in a remodel pickle! Sometimes trusting your enemy is the sweetest victory of all.

Why gamble on a second chance at love?
Six years ago, Cole McCaffrey shattered Alix Porter’s heart into a million scattered shards. But one lucky encounter with flying artwork lands Alix right back into Cole’s lap. With seven short vacation days, can Cole spark their sizzling chemistry and convince Alix of his love, despite the lie that tore them apart?

Available on Amazon!
(99 pennies from 10/16 through 10/23)

TEASER #1 from Kiss Me at Last

With a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth, Sean had been waiting for an eruption for the last ten minutes.
It was day three of construction, and Melinda had looked far from chipper as she’d schlepped into the wine bar at eight in a slouchy gray sweater, faded jeans, and nondescript running shoes. Her eyes were bleary, and she cradled her coffee concoction like it was the crown jewel in the queen’s tiara. She’d winced every time his hammer drove home a nail.
Sean grinned. Hangover, he supposed, and he pounded a few extra nails for good measure as she scuttled into her office. That ought to fix her little red wagon, Miss High and Mighty and her sexy British accent. Not that he’d noticed.
He glanced toward her office door, and there was Melinda, staring at him with a stony gaze through half-slitted eyes.
“Good morning, Ms. York,” Sean said in his perkiest voice. “Sun’s shining, and it’s beautiful out.” He fiddled with the chuck on the drill and idly revved it a few times for some bonus noise.
“Is there anything quiet you can do for a while?” Melinda said, her tone was pained.
“Not feeling well?”
“I’m fine. I have some phone calls to make to wine distributors and a little peace and quiet would be divine.”
“Go back to your coffee shop for those calls. Unless you want me to take a break already? That will slow me down.”
Melinda glared. “I’m trying to get some work done, too.”
“Well, ma’am. This is a construction zone, so there’s going to be noise. We’re not slapping on some paint and hanging a few light fixtures. We’re adding beams, ripping out floors. What exactly were you expecting? Should I bring a bowl of potpourri or something?”
“That might help.” Her tone was drenched in syrup. “Or do you have a silencer for that drill?”

TEASER #2 from Kiss Me, Trouble

As they walked side by side out of the restaurant, a noisy group of women jostled by them. Alix scooted to one side to avoid a passerby whose nose was buried in her phone. She staggered into a towering potted palm.
The palm fronds swayed ominously, and Alix’s arms flailed.
“Easy there. Don’t take out that tree.” Cole twined an arm around her waist and pulled her close. A herd of butterflies stampeded through her belly. His touch was familiar, but it dazzled her senses as if it was the first time they’d touched.
“I’m not usually so wobbly on my feet.” Alix smiled up at Cole and didn’t move.
Cole blinked and broke into a lopsided grin. “You were pushed.”
“Like Humpty Dumpty? Did she fall or was she pushed?” Alix wrinkled her nose.
“It was a conspiracy.” Cole squeezed her waist and winked.
“Did you pay them to bump me into your arms?” She inched one hip closer to his body.
“That would have been well played.” Cole’s voice lowered, but she could have heard him whisper, for the rest of the world had grown distant. There were no glasses clinking nor bar patrons buzzing with laughter.
“And risky.” Alix let her hands creep up his chest until she could feel the solid thud of his heart. It was strong. It was beating as fast as hers. Staccato.
“I work the angles and the gray areas.”
“But, I’m the straight arrow.”
“Opposites still attract?” Cole’s mouth inched closer, and his scent filled her senses. He was exotic like sandalwood but grounded like cedar. He was heaven.

Holly Cortelyou pens sweet and spicy small town, contemporary romances that just may have a kiss of magic or a twist mystery.
On any given day, she’s likely sipping coffee and procrastinating on Facebook or organizing a closet. Holly’s living her own Happily Ever After with an uber-handy, broad-shouldered and delicious husband, a sweet silver lab and a fluffball kitty in sun-kissed Southern Oregon.
She has hazel eyes, a goofy sense of humor and all the rest is subject to change without notice.


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WoT Reread

Today I’m over at Here Be Magic talking about my all-time favorite series:  Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

And yes, I have started to reread the massive series.  I will need to repurchase the first three books — the paperbacks fell apart a long time ago.  I thought about buying them in Kindle, but I like to have the entire series in the same format.  Book 4 and beyond are all in hardcover, so I guess I’ll stick to dead-tree books for this series.

This isn’t the first reread I’ve done.  It used to be my tradition to help the years pass until the next release by rereading all the books in the series so far.  I did that through book 7.  After that, I just couldn’t do it any longer.  I was working full time, then we had kids, then I started writing myself.  I started to fall behind.  I’m pretty sure the last book I actually read was 10.  Yikes!  And these are massive tomes too – I’ll get a workout just holding the darned book!

I always said as soon as the last book was released that I’d read the series start to finish one last time.  So let the reread begin!

I’ve finished the first two chapters of The Eye of the World.  This time I’m trying to savor the book instead of rushing to finish so I can see what happens next.  (I read book 6 straight through in about 24 hours–in between classes–because it was sooo good and I was terrified it’d end on a cliffhanger and I’d have to wait 3 years for the next book!)

Reading book 1 is like coming home to an old friend.  Rand has just met Moiraine and Lan.  We’ve met Mat and heard about Egwene, Nynaeve and Thom (although he hasn’t been named).  It’s funny to know these characters so well, to be eager for them to show up.  It’s awe-inspiring to know that Jordan laid down so many crucial threads in this first book.  Amazing, really.  Thousands and thousands of pages, and here the delicate first threads are woven and the Pattern begins.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.

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Emotional Reads

One of the things I want to work on with my writing in 2012 is making sure I involve the emotions.  I want to take you on an emotional rollcoaster!  Wild joy, the depths of loneliness and doubt, and everything in between.

I’ve taken Margie Lawson’s Empowing Characters’ Emotions workshop (I plan to re-read all my notes next year), but I’m looking for highly emotional books you’ve enjoyed that I can add to Mt. TBR.  Some books I’ve heard recommended as “emotional” are Lisa Valdez’s Passion and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  (Whispers, although I’ll admit that I’ve tried to read both in the past and can’t get through the samples.)

When you think of high emotions, what books would you recommend?

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Review: Jenna Reynolds’ Kiss of Honor

A few weeks ago, Lianna Williamson won a copy of Jenna’s latest Ellora’s Cave release, Kiss of Honor, and Lianna was kind enough to send me a review to post!

Gawain (a descendant of the  Gawain) takes being a knight very, very seriously. Despite the general debauchery at court, he’s taken a vow of chastity, and he’s honor-sworn to serve a king whose cruelty he despises. When the king sends him on a quest to uncover the secrets of a magic ring, Gawain meets Miriam Wildrose, a strong-willed and beautiful witch. Miriam challenges every one of Gawain’s dearly held beliefs, and as the heat grows between them, and Beltane approaches, he must make a choice between duty and love, and learn where true honor lies.

Kiss of Honor is a quick read with well-developed characters, loads of conflict, hot sex, not one but two HEA’s, and the most hilarious mouse familiar ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thank you, Lianna!  I thought the mouse was very cute and expressive too — definitely a different sort of familiar!

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This past week, I’ve read Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts trilogy Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, and City of Ghosts.  I read the last two back to back, even staying up half the night last night in order to finish the series.   (3 AM and I had to work today!)

It’s been on my mind all day.  I obviously enjoyed the books to gobble them so quickly, but I’m not left satisfied and happy.  No, the more I think about it, the more terrible I feel.

Terrible.  If you’ve read these books, you know what a great character he is.  He’s one of the main characters introduced in the first book and becomes Chess’s love interest later in a bit of a love triangle with Lex.  Terrible isn’t an everyday sort of hero — and these books aren’t everyday sort of books, either.  Downside is a very grim place.  People live on the streets or barely have a home over their heads.  They’re drug addicts, whores, drug dealers, thieves.  The protagonist, Chess, did not have a happy childhood.  In fact, it was horrible.  Any abuse or neglect you can imagine, she suffered. 

I went into the books knowing that she’s a drug addict, and honestly, at first, that didn’t bother me.   It was a great character flaw and gave lots of interesting traits to explore.  I figured it would give her a great character arc throughout the series.  But in that regard, I was disappointed.  She didn’t overcome her addiction.  In fact, it worsens.  In book 2, she’s getting drugs from two different dealers. Instead of popping a pill here and there, she’s downing 3 or 4 at a time, or mixing kinds.  Uppers to stay awake, downers to sleep, Cepts to keep her on her feet.

It became frustrating because I knew it was affecting her state of mind and her ability to do her job as a Debunker.  Plot clues that she couldn’t figure out because of the drugs.  She kept forgetting things.  Her addiction gave her enemies numerous opportunities to manipulate and blackmail her.  Even her lover is using her and she’s using him.  All she really cares about until the last book is the drugs.

Worse, though, are her lies to the one character who really cares about her.  It’s a testament to how great Stacia crafted Terrible — because I got so angry at Chess for lying to him.  Hurting him over and over.  He’s not squeaky clean either.  He’s an enforcer for Chess’s drug dealer and he busts people when they owe money.  Yes, he’s killed people.  But there’s a raw sense of honor in everything he does, while Chess lies and lies and sleeps with everyone but him.  Anyone but him, because she might, maybe, care for him.

I don’t want to spoil the last book for anyone still reading it — I don’t think it’s been out long.  Just let me say that I’m not convinced Chess can be happy, and I think that’s why I’m so…depressed, I guess.  I gobbled the entire series but felt down and sad when it was over.  It’s such a grim world.  Nobody’s happy.  Nobody succeeds, not really.  There’s all this terrible darkness and filth and misery and what hope is there?  How can Chess hope to succeed when she’s more addicted than ever?  She’s already broken laws that would get her killed or kicked out of the Church entirely — for drugs.  Now that she cares about Terrible, I can only imagine the foul deeds she’ll get trapped into to keep him safe.  Or for him.  Or for his boss, the drug dealer.

This is my favorite part of Unholy Magic and THE moment for me.  When Terrible became the most important person in the series for me (although I was already loving him, especially when he braved the blizzard to help Chess out of her withdrawal nightmare):

“I want you, Chess.  Make no mistake on that one, dig? Want you so bad. So bad I ain’t even can think of any else sometimes, ‘cept gettin you under me.  Ain’t give a f*ck what pills you swallow get you through the day or what happens you ain’t got em, aye.  Still want you. … But I ain’t…ain’t think I can take it, wakin up next to you on the morn, have you fake like nothin happened.  Or tell me you made yourself a mistake. Or say, aye, thanks, maybe try that again on the sometime.  I know how you run it, keepin it cool and no repeats, and I git it, aye? Got your reasons. … I figure you really wanted me you’d say.  Like now, maybe, if you dig.  I’ll f*ckin carry you down your place on a run, you tell me aye, get you on your back afore the next word comes out your mouth. But you oughta have yourself certain, causen I ain’t lookin for charity, an I ain’t lettin you go after.  Once … once ain’t enough for me, dig?”

Terrible, yes he is.  But she’s worse, because right after this incredible speech, she runs off to bang another guy.  I know why.  I understand the motivations and she does grow emotionally into book 3.  But Lord have mercy, such a speech, such a man, and I just don’t think Chess can stand up under scrutiny.  Not to him.

So I finished book 3 sad and discouraged.  Will they make it?  I don’t know.  And how can it be possible that the Church has no idea (Chess’s words — maybe they do but she doesn’t know they know) about her addiction, when all her “friends” and enemies can so easily figure it out and use it against her to blackmail her into some new treachery?

So much darkness.  I was hoping for a light after three books, something to shine against that darkness, but I just don’t know if they’ll make it, and that leaves me sadder than I can say.

Well done, Stacia, for driving me insane and keeping me up all night.  Terrible is a character I won’t soon forget.

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Reflections on Romance

I love many romances, I do, honestly.  But sometimes I’m disappointed by the genre restrictions. 

I was reading an enjoyable romance by an author I love, and the heroine was forced to choose between two men (granted, not my favorite trope at all, because you know what I’d say:  let Guinevere have both King Arthur and Sir Lancelot!)  But this wasn’t an erotic romance, so I knew she was going to choose one or the other.  I suspected something a little odd was going on, and then one particular event ruined the “reveal” for me entirely.  The surprise twist of the book was no longer a twist — it couldn’t be.  Because it was a mainstream romance.

What was the big event that spoiled the twist?  She had sex with someone other than the “hero” of the book listed in the blurb, quite late in the book.

Now how many books have we read where the hero is in bed with some skanky mistress?  Scads.  But we rarely see a HEROINE of a romance involved with anyone but the hero–because to allow her to be with someone else implies that she’s a slut.  That she DID have sex with the other man told me immediately that the “two men” thing was a complete and utter sham.  He had to be the same man, and yes, he was (although it was complicated).  I’m not naming the book so I don’t spoil it for anyone, and I still enjoyed the book.  I mean, she did get both heroes, then.  In a way. 

But it made me think about romance in general and the double standard.  I’m not saying I want skanky heroine sluts running around by any means, but sometimes, the restrictions of our genre chafe.

Come on, haven’t we moved beyond the following “choices” for a heroine?

  • virgin pure as snow
  • previous experience but they were all terrible, unsatisfying lovers and only the hero can teach her how wonderful a “real” man can be in bed. 
  • skank!

Of course I also read about a review of Victoria Dahl’s A Little Bit Wild today where the reviewer couldn’t get over the heroine’s “morals of a gnat.”  Errrr, I didn’t know that gnats were so permiscuious?  But the point:  the heroine (in a historical, no less) had had sex with other men, and that was just unforgivable.  Worse, she likes sex.  How terrible! *boggles* 

I guess that’s why I’m so intrigued by Victoria’s heroines.  They’re typically brash and unashamed with their own sexuality.  They’re subversive, really, compared to the rest of the heroines I’ve been reading lately.

That’s one of the things I really wanted to play with in the new world I’m building.  Subversive heroines.  Role reversals.  Taking beloved romance tropes and totally turning them on their heads, but still pulling off “romance.”  We’ll see if I succeeded…or failed utterly!

Sometimes I love that I can trust everything to work out in the end when reading a romance.  No matter how terrible things get, in the end, I know they’re going to be happy.  Nobody too crucial is going to die.  Nobody’s going to make a permanent wrong decision that costs them someone they love.  Happy happy happy!  But sometimes, that safety net reads more like a lie and a cheat than forever.

What subversive heroines have you enjoyed?

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Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione

What a tormented, incredible hero and yet a fun, sexy book!

Larissa is one of the few authors (for me) that can add campy humor and make me laugh out loud instead of rolling my eyes.  I mean, come on, UGH makes me snicker every single time!  I love it!   

The humor helps balance the smoldering intensity of the sex and the bloody action of the plot.  Anyone who’s read the first two books in the Demonica series knows that Wraith is going to burn the page up, and boy does he ever.  

But what I most admire about Larissa’s writing is how she builds these impossible romances.

Wraith is dying unless he steals Serena’s charm.

Serena will die if she doesn’t have the charm.

Although he’s half incubus, Wraith is violently opposed to touching a human woman.  Serena is not only human but also a virgin, and must stay that way, or she’ll lose the charm (see above).

Although he’s half vampire, Wraith despises all vampires because of the torture he received at their hands.  So of course, he must use his vampire skills not only to win the huge external conflict of the story but to also keep Serena alive.

Seriously, you have to wonder how she’s going to pull this romance off, even though we know they’ll end up together in the end.  Oh, and by the way, there’s this really bad guy who’s trying to kill them all and the whole world at the same time.

My only complaint — at myself, let me assure you — is that I can’t remember all the plot details from the first two books.  In my older age (combined with my brain being stuffed with my own storylines), I just can’t always remember who the characters are who show up again, and there is quite a bit of cross over.  However, Larissa beautifully explains who people are for the befuddled with poor memories like me.  Not an infodump or a huge backstory that slows the plot down — just a nicely dropped few lines about where we’ve seen this bad guy before.

And of course, a few lovely scenes with Lore to make me slobber for his book, Ecstacy Unveiled.

Well done, Larissa!

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Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl

I’ve been hooked on Lynn Viehl’s books ever since I read an ARC of If Angels Burn years ago, so I’m thrilled to read her new twist on the Darkyn universe.  Shadowlight kicks off a new “Takyn” series, but does have cross-over characters from the Darkyn books I know and love. 

There are a lot of new characters introduced, out of necessity to set up the new world.  Hang in there, don’t be discouraged by the large cast, and trust Lynn’s magic.  The “monster” created in this book is terrifically horrible and all the little hints and pieces definitely come together in one wild ride at the end. 

Since Evermore involved poetry, I wrote a sonnet for PBW back in 2007 — unfortunately, it was lost when I moved my blog.  So I thought I’d write a new one!

In shadowlight’s grim, unflinching hold,
Secret shadows are seared by truth’s clear light.
Crimes and horrors, hidden darkness untold,
Bared to Jessa’s weary soul without invite.
She hides alone, untouched and unloved;
Until GenHance tracks her through her special gift.
To save her from torture, Mattias steals his beloved–
Tho she knows him not, and her distrust comes swift.
In shadowlight, Jessa sees his frozen past:
A blizzard storm and centuries of barren ice.
He tells her so many horror tales she’s left aghast–
While their physical connection attempts to entice.
If GenHance gains her shadowlight sight,
Their engineered soldiers will the world ablight.

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Sweet Spot by Jenna Reynolds

Happy release day to my friend, JennaSweet Spot is available today from Ellora’s Cave.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet — it’ll be my reward once I get through July’s insane projects.  A dentist vs. an erotic candy maker — talk about built-in conflict!

Alice Parker loves sweets and nothing gives her more pleasure than whipping up a sizzling batch of erotic candy. Especially for the bachelorette party her best friend is holding for her daughter. That is, until she meets Edward Larkin. Now all Alice can think about is how to get the hunky orthodontist into bed so she can slowly lick every luscious inch of him.

Edward doesn’t eat sweets and often warns his patients about overindulging. So the last thing he wants to hear is that Alice, the very sexy candy store owner, is providing a huge candy buffet for his niece’s wedding. A wedding he has come to town to stop. One way or another.

Alice is a tempting treat Edward just has to sample—and one taste might never be enough.